December 16, 2006
VAL GARDENA, ITALY – (USST News Bureau Release) – Olympian Steven Nyman (Provo, UT), overcoming training troubles and riding “magic sticks,” tore through the gnarly Saslong speed course Saturday to win the first World Cup of his career, edging Swiss veteran Didier Cuche by two-hundredths of a second. Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA) was fourth, just .01 off the podium, with Bode Miller (Bretton Woods, NH) in 14th place.
WCSN.com will have same-day video streaming from Nyman’s win at 6-8 p.m. ET.
It marked an unprecedented third consecutive World Cup speed victory by an American, combining Nyman’s triumph with Miller’s wins at the VISA Birds of Prey downhill Dec. 1 in Beaver Creek, CO, (with Nyman third for his first World Cup podium) and Friday’s super G in Val Gardena.
“This is a great Christmas present because I don’t get to go home for Christmas,” Nyman said, “and to win on a course like this is awesome. It’s very demanding and even if I hadn’t, I had a great time coming down the hill. I knew I had a good run…
“I was happy with my run; I put forth my best effort and that’s all I can do. I can’t control these other guys, but it all panned out for me,” he said.
Added DH/SG Head Coach Chris Brigham, “The boys came out to play today. Steven had a game plan early on and he stuck to it; he told me, ‘I think I’ve figured it out’ and I said, ‘Well, show me.’ – and he did…and Marco was right on it – we saw some great skiing from him. Bode was blazing, too, until he made a mistake in the Ciaslat” at the bottom.
Nyman, Sullivan learned from training miscues
Nyman, 24 and a two-time U.S. downhill champion, was timed in 1:56.52 for the 50th Saslong Classic with Cuche, who was second between Miller and Nyman in Beaver Creek, down in 1:56.54. Sullivan’s time was 1:56.96 in the best result of his World Cup career while Miller, who led briefly in midrace Saturday before a mistake at the bottom cost him, finished in 1:57.36.
Nyman, the new skiing ambassador for Ski Salt Lake areas, crashed in the first training run and skied out in the second run earlier in the week, but his pre-race inspection of the DH course settled him down because, he said, “I knew where to place my line. I had a good video review the night before and I knew what I needed to do, I saw the line I needed to take.”
And when he got into the start? “Just ‘give her’ (let it rip). I’m confident on my skis, I’m balanced over my skis, confident in my product (Fischer skis) and on race day I go as hard as I can. My serviceman picked out magic sticks today,” he said. Nyman’s serviceman is Leo Mussi, former tech for Italian great Kristian Ghedina, who won four times in Val Gardena before retiring last spring at 37 with 13 World Cup wins.
“I was nervous when I got up. My stomach hurt and then I talked to my serviceman and he said his stomach hurt but when his stomach hurt, that usually meant good things would happen,” Nyman laughed.
Sullivan: “Somehow I pulled it off…”
Sullivan added with a grin of his own, “Actually, I didn’t finish either training run, either, so Steven and I had that going for us. I never even made it into the Ciaslat, below the Camel Bumps at the bottom, but somehow I pulled it off today.” He and Nyman stood 1-2 atop the leader board through 22 skiers – until Cuche came down and split them, and then Austrian Fritz Strobl came in third at 1:56.95.
“Yeah, one-hundredth, but I can’t control that. I got my Nordicas rolling and I gave it my best,” said Sullivan, who missed two seasons after a knee injury in a training crash at the start of the 2004 season. He made the 2006 Olympic Team and, he said, “I feel like I’m smarter and skiing fast. I’m looking forward to every race now because I’m confident again and I’m kinda ‘back’…back to where I was before the injury.”
Brigham said, “This was a great day for Steven, and to get his first win on one of the toughest hills on the World Cup…wow! I’ve been fortunate to be around some pretty cool days with the Ski Team (since he became a coach a decade ago), but this one is special, very special.”
In the super G Friday, racers went around the fabled Camel Bumps – three back-to-back-to-back, launching pads on the lower one-third of the 3.4K track which have claimed many of the best skiers through the years – but they go over the nasty mounds of snow in the downhill. “The terrain on this course is nonstop, top to bottom. But the camel bumps,” Brigham explained, “are where you really have to figure out your jumps, and they did it…and to have two of your stars step up like this today is just awesome.”
Miller, Nyman end “drought” on Saslong track
Head Coach Phil McNichol echoed Brigham. “The drought’s over with a serious rainstorm. For whatever the reason, we’ve never done particularly well here – only two podiums, both third places, before this weekend…but Bode and Steven ended that problem bigtime.
“It’s always special when you bring a new guy up to a World Cup win and Steven was a real tiger in there today. The weather’s been fantastic,” McNichol said, “and the track’s been perfect, but with the limited snow, the Saslong is an even tougher course. We watched video last night with Marco and we counted 25 times when you’re in the air, off the ground.
“It was really only three guys who were in there – Steven, Bode and Cuche. Bode, who’s been working on managing his risks, had almost the same time as Steven before he pushed the line at the bottom and paid for it. He trimmed a line off the top of the Ciaslat, was a little aggressive and couldn’t push it that hard, line-wise…and it cost him.”
The only speed string of success by U.S. skiers, comparable to the three victories by U.S. men in the last two weeks, came midway through the 1995 season. Picabo Street, who would go on to become the first American to win a World Cup downhill title and would take six downhills consecutively over the ’95 and ’96 seasons, won three consecutive DHs before Swiss racer Heidi Zeller-Baehler won a super G.
The men move on to Alta Badia for a giant slalom Sunday followed by a slalom Monday. For complete results: